Test Results FAQ

  • When should I expect my results back?

    Figure on about 8 weeks from the time you order your kit and you will be prepared for the wait.  You can track the progress of your test through the lab by going to your Personal Page at FTDNA and clicking on "Pending Lab Results".  For more information on using your Personal Page at FTDNA, click here. 

    What does my result mean?

    When you receive your test results, you will see a table with a string of numbers in the boxes. Each number represents one of the markers on the strand of y-DNA that was tested. (The number tells how many times the pattern repeats at that marker.)Now you want to understand what these numbers mean in comparison to other people's test results. For help in understanding your results, click here. 

    What is a "marker"?
    DNA testing for Genetic Genealogy focuses on a specific part of the y-chromosome on the DNA strand. There are particular places that the lab looks at (similar to addresses on a street) where patterns repeat over and over. The lab counts the number of times the pattern repeats, and that is your count for that marker. By comparing these counts (the number you see for each address on your test results), you can see how closely you match others who have been tested. 
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    What determines a "match"?
    In the simplest case, analyzing results can be a review of the number at each marker to confirm a perfect match (say 25/25). However, in most cases, there will some matches and some mismatches. Results are evaluated by counting the number of exact matches and the number of mismatches. (If the mismatches are one number apart, they are considered a “one step” mutation. If they are two numbers away, they are considered a “two step” mutation, etc. Typically, a two step mutation is counted as two mismatches. In these cases, contact the testing firm for guidance.)
    Most researchers want to know if they are "related" to another person or family. Here are some guidelines to help you understand your results when comparing them to other results:

    For those who tested at 12 markers:

    1. Matches of less than 9/12 – the two participants do not share a common ancestor*

    2. Matches of 9/12 - there is a tiny chance that the participants share a common ancestor. You'll need to test at 37 markers to find a true shared genetic match that starts with such a low match. (The author has not yet seen a 9/12 become an accepted genetic match - but has heard of one case)

    3. Matches of 10/12 – there is a small chance that the participants share a common ancestor. Increase to 25 markers and re-evaluate

    4. Matches of 11/12 and 12/12 – there is an improved chance that the participants share a common ancestor. Increase to 25 markers and re-evaluate

    5. CAUTION: a 12/12 match - even with the same surname - can be a random match. If a solid paper trail connects the 12/12 match, you can be reasonably certain of shared ancestry, but without the connecting paper trail - you can only be sure by upgrading to at least 25 markers

    For those who tested at 25 markers:

    1. Matches of less than 21/25 – the two participants do not share a common ancestor*

    2. Matches of 21/25 & 22/25 – there is a small chance that the participants share a common ancestor. Consider all of the traditional genealogy insights and try to obtain more participants to represent the affected families. Upgrade to 37 markers

    3. Matches of 23/25, 24/25 & 25/25 – there is a high probability that participants who share a surname share a common ancestor. If there is no shared paper trail, a comparison at 37 or 67 markers can be useful

    4. You may also refer to the chart prepared by Family Tree DNA: Click Here

    For those who tested at 37 markers:

    1. Matches of less than 31/37 – the two participants do not share a common ancestor*

    2. Matches of 31/37 and 32/37 - the two participants have a small possibility that may share a common ancestor from the early days of surnames. This is an area with little clear insight. An upgrade to 67 markers is encouraged

    3. Matches of 33/37 - some researchers consider this to be a match and some don't. If there is a shared common ancestor - it will be more than a few 100s of years ago. Upgrade to 67 markers for additional clarity

    4. Matches of 34/37, 35/37, 36/37 & 37/37 - the participants share a recent common ancestor

    5. You may also refer to the chart prepared by Family Tree DNA: Click Here

    For those who tested at 67 markers:

    1. Matches of less than 60/67 – the two participants probably do not share a common ancestor*. This is still being studied - but unless your match is nearly 60/67 and you have some reason to believe there is a shared ancestor since the advent of surnames - you should consider your near miss as "no match"

    2. Matches of 60/67 and 61/67 - the two participants may share a common ancestor from the early days of surnames. This is still being studied

    3. Matches of 62/67 and better - researchers consider these to be a match - indicating a shared common ancestor

    4. You may also refer to the chart prepared by Family Tree DNA: Click Here

    *We mean a common direct paternal ancestor within the historical period of surnames."
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    How do I compare my results to other people?

    Once your results are available, you'll be able to go into your personal page at FTDNA and do a search for yDNA matches. You'll always see all of the other results in your surname - and at that time, you'll be able to select a preference that allows you to compare against all others of all surnames who opt in to the FTDNA internal comparison. (When your results are back, we'll post them on your surname project’s Results page.)
    You'll also be able to upload your results to
    Ysearch (FTDNA's public database - open to all) and see who you match there. Click here to go to Ysearch.
    FTDNA will send you automated messages when you have a match (either with only your surname project members or to their internal "opted-in" database) - depending on your selection

    What if I don't "Match Anyone in my Family"

    We have heard this question in several contexts - so let's try to capture the variations:

    • This means that you do not share a common ancestor with any of the other men tested so far in the project. If you believe that your pedigree is completely accurate and that there have been no "non-paternity" events in your line, it also means that your ancestral line does not share a common ancestor with any of the men tested so far in the project However, you'll need a confirming result from a second man to be certain on this point. (If you find and test a man descended from a different son of your earliest ancestor, and if the two of you match - you'll know the DNA of your most recent common ancestor. You'll also know the DNA of every ancestor between you and that common ancestor.)  So here are the steps you can take:  


  • Upgrade, if needed, to at least 37 markers  (Most of the mutations may be in the first markers.)
  • Test your most distant known cousin 
  • Test a known descendant of a family you think you match or of a family living in the area where yours lived who was closely associated with your family (possible unrecorded adoption).
  • Join your Geographic and Haplogroup Projects
  • Be Patient.  The person who will match you and help unlock your genealogy may decide to be tested at some point in the future.  When he does, your results and pedigree will already be available and ready to help you make the connection you desire! 


    How do I upload my results to Y-Search from FTDNA? 
    Go into your personal page at FTDNA and click on “Y-DNA matches”, then look in the middle of the page - at the bottom of the box called "Additional possibilities for searching matches". There is a link to "Click here to upload to
    Ysearch is the largest worldwide public Y-DNA database with the most extensive number of markers.  It allows people who have tested with different companies to make their results available for comparison.  Click here to go to Ysearch.

    What is Ysearch?
    Ysearch is the largest worldwide public Y-DNA database with the most extensive number of markers.  It allows people who have tested with different companies to make their results available for comparison.  Click here to go to Ysearch.

    What is a "lineage"?
    Results included in a "Lineage" share a recent common ancestor since the advent of surnames (circa 1100 AD) On the Surname Project Results Page, Lineages are grouped and share a color.  The result in the Lineage row shows the projected markers for the Lineage's common ancestor (Lineage  Haplotype)
    Each man should match the Lineage result at least 23/25 to be considered a satisfactory match
    Each place where a man does not match the Lineage haplotype is shown in a contrasting color
    Where the ancestral marker cannot be projected, a question mark is shown instead
    When 12 marker results are shown in a Lineage group - this is preliminary. An upgrade to at least 25 markers
    is needed to confirm that this 12 marker result actually shares the Lineage common ancestor.
    Results shown in a general grouping do not share a common ancestor if they are shown in a different color.
    A 12 marker match may be shown in the same color, but will not be declared as a Lineage until two results are
    matching at least 23/25
    Who is the Earliest Known Ancestor?
    As the name suggests, this is the person who is the farthest back of your family tree that you have been able to trace through a paper trail. When your results are returned at Family Tree DNA, you will be given your own personal page. There will be an orange tab on that page that is marked "Setup Preferences". Click on that and you will go to the page that lets you select your preferences in how you want your matches set and displayed. Scroll to the bottom of the page for the section marked "Displaying the Most Distant Known Ancestor" . There you can fill in your earliest known ancestors. When we know the EKA of a participant, we use that name in displaying test results on the "Results" page.

    What is a line leader?

    A Line Leader is responsible for all of the research and information on his family. Ideally, this is all of the descendants of an immigrant, but reality will tell you what the family span actually is. As you and others start matching (and not), you will break into genetic groups working together to understand the full story of your family. Hopefully, this will extend to families whose paper trails connect into the Home Country, which will give you a fresh research focus. You'll be the lead in deciding how to include newly found cousins and will work to resolve the inevitable conflicts that rise. The better you are in making everyone feel valued and included, and in sharing the work, the stronger your research group will be.
    As a convention, we show the Line Leader on the row with the Earliest Known Ancestor and Branch Leader at the row where their responsibility begins, while DNA tests are shown attached to the last generation of the family display in the pedigree.
    Probably, there will be Branch Leaders, focusing on distinct branches. If your family is like mine, you'll have a large collection of families with the same DNA who don't know how they are connected. In this situation – someone will need to become Lineage Leader. In larger families, we group pedigrees on the Patriarch page by Lineage.

    Can I correlate my mtDNA results to others in my maternal line?
    There really isn't a way to correlate mtDNA to a line, as every woman who marries into a surname family carries a different mtDNA. You will learn your haplogroup, which tell you which 'branch of woman' you descend from on your mother's side. In addition, you will be told of the mutations that are present. These allow you to locate those with whom you share a maternal heritage. However, this is too far in the past to be able to link paper trails. A number of folks have started mtDNA projects to increase the learning, and there is a lot of hope for the potential. 
    We would encourage you to join your mtDNA haplogroup project to work with others who share your common ancestry. 
    Worldfamilies.net site with more information about mtDNA
    FamilyTreeDNA site with more information about mtDNA

    Worldfamilies.net page about mtDNA Haplogroup Projects

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    Can I remove my test results from the database at some later time?

    Yes. Just like an email list, if you decide that you want your data deleted from the database, you may email FTDNA, they will look up your ID number, and ask that it be deleted from the Database.

    What is a haplogroup?
    A group of similar haplotypes that share a common ancestor with a SNP mutation. Because a haplogroup consists of similar haplotypes, this is what makes it possible to predict a haplogroup. A SNP test confirms a haplogroup. Haplogroups are assigned letters of the alphabet, and refinements consist of additional number and letter combinations, Example: R1b1. Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA haplogroups have different haplogroup designations. Haplogroups pertain to your deep ancestral origins dating back thousands of years.
    For a description of the migration patterns and ethnic origins of each group, take a look at this page: http://www.worldfamilies.net/haplogroups

    Family Tree DNA's Understanding Haplogroups.

  • What does a "haplogroup match" mean?
    Haplogroups (Haplo) is a grouping by deep ancestry (think 1000s and 10,000s of years). Men with the same Haplogroup do share a common ancestor - but he lived a long time ago. Haplogroup matches give you an idea of where men with your dna result report as their origins.

    Haplogroups are distinct separations. I is totally different than R. An R1b is very different that an R1a, but an R1b, R1b1 and R1b1c are just different levels of reporting detail and do go together. I and either I1a or I1b can go together but I1a and I1b cannot.

    Why are haplogroups shown in different colors on the results page?
    If the participant was SNP tested, his haplogroup will show in green. If he has not been SNP tested, FTDNA may have made an estimate of his haplogroup based on his 12/12 match to someone who has been SNP tested. In this case, the haplogroup will show in red, indicating that it is an estimate.

    Will my results be automatically compared to other surnames?
    Once your kit is returned, you have access to your personal page at FTDNA, giving you access to some info. However, you do not have access to most parts of the FTDNA structure until your results are in. Joining additional projects and comparisons outside the project are not automatic.

    Once your results are returned, you have much more access and options. You will be able to adjust your preferences, determining whether you compare to results outside of the project. You can also list your earliest known paternal ancestor (relates to your yDNA test) and your earliest known maternal ancestor (relates to your mtDNA test - if you have one) At this time, you may join additional projects, such as a second surname project, a geographic project, a y-haplogroup project, and if applicable - a mtDNA haplogroup project. (these are all in addition to your original surname project). You can also
    upload your results to Ysearch and upload a gedcom.

    How do I present my results on the internet?
    Each testing company has a password-protected page for presenting the results of the Surname Project. Family Tree DNA has a free-access page for their projects. For some surname projects, this is sufficient. It is certainly an easy way to start. Many Surname Projects present their results on a dedicated site or on free pages that they arrange. Surname projects at World Families Network have a Results page as part of the project's website. The results are shown there, identified by a code identity number and the earliest known ancestor (if known), with results that match grouped by color, and eventually separated into lineages.  To see an example of the Bentley Project's Results Page, click here


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